Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
General Audience, Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Today we begin a series of catecheses on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You know that the Holy Spirit constitutes the soul, the life blood of the Church and of every individual Christian: He is the Love of God who makes of our hearts his dwelling place and enters into communion with us. The Holy Spirit abides with us always, he is always within us, in our hearts.
The Spirit himself is “the gift of God” par excellence (cf. Jn 4:10), he is a gift of God, and he in turn communicates various spiritual gifts to those who receive him. The Church identifies seven, a number which symbolically speaks of fullness, completeness; they are those we learn about when we prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation and which we invoke in the ancient prayer called the “Sequence of the Holy Spirit”. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
1. The first gift of the Holy Spirit according to this list is therefore wisdom. But it is not simply human wisdom, which is the fruit of knowledge and experience. In the Bible we are told that Solomon, at the time of his coronation as King of Israel, had asked for the gift of wisdom (cf. 1 Kings 3:9). And wisdom is precisely this: it is the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God. It is simply this: it is to see the world, to see situations, circumstances, problems, everything through God’s eyes. This is wisdom. Sometimes we see things according to our liking or according to the condition of our heart, with love or with hate, with envy…. No, this is not God’s perspective. Wisdom is what the Holy Spirit works in us so as to enable us to see things with the eyes of God. This is the gift of wisdom.
2. And obviously this comes from intimacy with God, from the intimate relationship we have with God, from the relationship children have with their Father. And when we have this relationship, the Holy Spirit endows us with the gift of wisdom. When we are in communion with the Lord, the Holy Spirit transfigures our heart and enables it to perceive all of his warmth and predilection.
3. The Holy Spirit thus makes the Christian “wise”. Not in the sense that he has an answer for everything, that he knows everything, but in the sense that he “knows” about God, he knows how God acts, he knows when something is of God and when it is not of God; he has this wisdom which God places in our hearts.
The heart of the wise man in this sense has a taste and savour for God. And how important it is that there be Christians like this in our communities! Everything in them speaks of God and becomes a beautiful and living sign of his presence and of his love. And this is something that we cannot invent, that we cannot obtain by ourselves: it is a gift that God gives to those who make themselves docile to the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit within us, in our heart; we can listen to him, we can listen to him. If we listen to the Holy Spirit, he teaches us this way of wisdom, he endows us with wisdom, which is seeing with God’s eyes, hearing with God’s ears, loving with God’s heart, directing things with God’s judgement. This is the wisdom the Holy Spirit endows us with, and we can all have it. We only have to ask it of the Holy Spirit.
Think of a mother at her home with the children; when one does something the other thinks of something else, and the poor mother goes to and fro with the problems of her children. And when mothers get tired and scold the children, is that wisdom? Scolding children — I ask you — is this wisdom? What do you say: is it wisdom or not? No! Instead, when the mother takes her child aside and gently reproves him, saying: “Don’t do this, because…”, and explains with great patience, is this the wisdom of God? Yes! It is what the Holy Spirit gives us in life! Then, in marriage for example, the two spouses — the husband and wife — argue, and then they don’t look at each other, or if they do look at each other, they look at each other with displeasure: is this the wisdom of God? No! Instead, if one says: “Ah well, the storm has passed, let’s make peace”, and they begin again and go forward in peace: is this wisdom? [the people: Yes!] Now, this is the gift of wisdom. May it come to our homes, may we have it with the children, may it come to us all!
And this cannot be learned: this is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we must ask the Lord to grant us the Holy Spirit and to grant us the gift of wisdom, that wisdom of God that teaches us to see with God’s eyes, to feel with God’s heart, to speak with God’s words. And so, with this wisdom, let us go forward, let us build our family, let us build the Church, and we will all be sanctified. Today let us ask for this grace of wisdom. And let us ask Our Lady, who is the Seat of Wisdom, for this gift: may she give us this grace. Thank you!
General Audience, Wednesday, 30 April 2014
In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of understanding. Born of our sharing in God’s life through faith and baptism, the gift of understanding enables us to see in all things the unfolding of his eternal plan of love. The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and enlightens our minds, guiding us to an ever deeper understanding of Christ’s teaching and his saving mission. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we often fail to recognize the the Lord walking at our side and the working of God’s grace in our lives and the world around us. Yet thanks to the Spirit’s gift of understanding, our eyes are opened and our hearts burn within us (cf. Lk 24:13-27) as we recognize the Risen Lord’s presence and view all things in a new light, with fresh spiritual insight. How important it is to implore this gift of understanding! Through it the Holy Spirit dispels the darkness of our minds and hearts, strengthens us in faith and enables us to savour the richness of God’s word and its promise of salvation.
General Audience, Wednesday, 7 May 2014
In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of counsel. Through this gift, God enlightens our hearts and directs our thoughts, words and actions in accordance with his saving will. By leading us to Jesus, and through him to the Father, the Holy Spirit guides us in our daily interaction with others and enables us to make right decisions in the light of faith. Through the gift of counsel, we also grow in the virtue of prudence, learning to overcome our self-centredness and to see all things with the eyes of Christ. The gift of counsel, like all spiritual gifts, needs to be cultivated through prayer, by which we become attuned to the voice of the Spirit and conformed to the heart of Christ. Nor does this gift enrich us as individuals alone; the Spirit also counsels us through the lives and experiences of our brothers and sisters in the Church. Today, as we give thanks for the gift of counsel, let us seek to support one another along the path of faith, as we seek to be ever more docile to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
General Audience, Wednesday, 14 May 2014
In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of fortitude. We have seen that the first three gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, understanding and counsel – enable us to contemplate God’s loving plan and to know his will. Through the gift of fortitude, we receive the strength to do God’s will in spite of our own natural weakness and limitations. In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus teaches us that the seed of God’s word sown in our hearts can encounter not only interior resistance, but also be choked by life’s sufferings and trials. Through the gift of fortitude, the Holy Spirit enables us to remain faithful amid every difficulty and – as the experience of so many Christians around the world shows – even amid persecution and martyrdom. For most of us, the gift of fortitude is exercised in our patient pursuit of holiness in the circumstances of our daily lives. Whenever we feel weary or discouraged along the journey of faith, let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of fortitude, to refresh us and to guide our steps with renewed enthusiasm.
General Audience, Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Today I would like to highlight another gift of the Holy Spirit: the gift of knowledge. When we speak of knowledge, we immediately think of man’s capacity to learn more and more about the reality that surrounds him and to discover the laws that regulate nature and the universe. The knowledge that comes from the Holy Spirit, however, is not limited to human knowledge; it is a special gift, which leads us to grasp, through creation, the greatness and love of God and his profound relationship with every creature.
1. When our eyes are illumined by the Spirit, they open to contemplate God, in the beauty of nature and in the grandeur of the cosmos, and they lead us to discover how everything speaks to us about Him and His love. All of this arouses in us great wonder and a profound sense of gratitude! It is the sensation we experience when we admire a work of art or any marvel whatsoever that is borne of the genius and creativity of man: before all this, the Spirit leads us to praise the Lord from the depths of our heart and to recognize, in all that we have and all that we are, an invaluable gift of God and a sign of his infinite love for us.
2. In the first Chapter of Genesis, right at the beginning of the Bible, what is emphasized is that God is pleased with his creation, stressing repeatedly the beauty and goodness of every single thing. At the end of each day, it is written: “God saw that it was good” (1:12, 18, 21, 25): if God sees creation as good, as a beautiful thing, then we too must take this attitude and see that creation is a good and beautiful thing. Now, this is the gift of knowledge that allows us to see this beauty, therefore we praise God, giving thanks to him for having granted us so much beauty. And when God finished creating man he didn’t say “he saw that this was good”, but said that this was “very good” (v. 31). In the eyes of God we are the most beautiful thing, the greatest, the best of creation: even the Angels are beneath us, we are more than the angels, as we heard in the Book of Psalms. The Lord favours us! We must give thanks to him for this. The gift of knowledge sets us in profound harmony with the Creator and allows us to participate in the clarity of his vision and his judgement. And it is in this perspective that we manage to accept man and woman as the summit of creation, as the fulfillment of a plan of love that is impressed in each one of us and that allows us to recognize one another as brothers and sisters.
3. All this is a source of serenity and peace and makes the Christian a joyful witness of God, in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi and so many saints who knew how to praise and laud his love through the contemplation of creation. At the same time, however, the gift of knowledge helps us not to fall into attitudes of excess or error. The first lies in the risk of considering ourselves the masters of creation. Creation is not some possession that we can lord over for our own pleasure; nor, even less, is it the property of only some people, the few: creation is a gift, it is the marvellous gift that God has given us, so that we will take care of it and harness it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude. The second erroneous attitude is represented by the temptation to stop at creatures, as if these could provide the answer to all our expectations. With the gift of knowledge, the Spirit helps us not to fall into this error.
But I would like to return to the first of these incorrect paths: tyranny over rather than the custody of creation. We must protect creation for it is a gift which the Lord has given us, it is God’s present to us; we are the guardians of creation. When we exploit creation, we destroy that sign of God’s love. To destroy creation is to say to God: “I don’t care”. And this is not good: this is sin.
Custody of creation is precisely custody of God’s gift and it is saying to God: “thank you, I am the guardian of creation so as to make it progress, never to destroy your gift”. This must be our attitude to creation: guard it for if we destroy creation, creation will destroy us! Don’t forget that. Once I was in the countryside and I heard a saying from a simple person who had a great love for flowers and took care of them. He said to me: “We must take care of the beautiful things that God has given us! Creation is ours so that we can receive good things from it; not exploit it, to protect it. God forgives always, we men forgive sometimes, but creation never forgives and if you don’t care for it, it will destroy you”.
This should make us think and should make us ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of knowledge in order to understand better that creation is a most beautiful gift of God. He has done many good things for the thing that is most good: the human person.
General Audience, Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Today we want to pause on a gift of the Holy Spirit which is often misunderstood and considered in a superficial way; instead it touches in the heart our identity and our Christian life: it is the gift of piety.
It is necessary to clarify immediately that this gift is not identified with having compassion for someone, having pity for one’s neighbor, but it indicates our belonging to God and our profound bond with Him, a bond that gives meaning to the whole of our life and which keeps us firm, in communion with Him, also in the most difficult and trying moments.
1. This bond with the Lord is not intended as a duty or an imposition. It is a bond that comes from within. It is a relation lived with the heart: it is our friendship with God, given us by Jesus; a friendship that changes our life and fills us with enthusiasm and joy. Therefore, the gift of piety arouses in us, first of all, gratitude and praise. This is, in fact, the motive and the most authentic meaning of our worship and of our adoration. When the Holy Spirit makes us perceive the presence of the Lord and all his love for us, He warms our heart and moves us almost naturally to prayer and to celebration. Piety, therefore, is synonym of authentic religious spirit, of filial confidence in God, of that capacity to pray to Him with love and simplicity which is proper of persons who are humble of heart.
2. If the gift of piety makes us grow in our relation and communion with God and leads us to live as His children, at the same time it helps us to pour this love also on others and to recognize them as brothers. And then yes we will be moved by sentiments of piety — not of pietism! — in our dealings with those around us and those we meet every day. Why do I say not pietism?
Because some think that to have piety is to close one’s eyes, to make an imaginary face, and feign to be like a saint. In Piedmont we say: to make a ”Mugna Quacia” This isn’t the gift ofpiety. The gift of piety means to be truly capable of rejoicing with those in joy, to weep with those who weep, to welcome and help those who are in need. There is a very close relation between the gift of piety and meekness. The gift of piety that the Holy Spirit gives us makes us meek, it makes us tranquil, patient, in peace with God, and at the service of others with meekness.
Dear friends, in the Letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul affirms: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, for you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship, when we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:14-15).
Let us pray to the Lord that the gift of his Spirit may conquer our fear, our uncertainties, also our restless, impatient spirit, and be able to render us joyful witnesses of God and of his love, adoring the Lord in truth and also in the service of our neighbor, with meekness and with the smile that the Holy Spirit always gives us in joy. May the Holy Spirit give all of us this gift of piety.
(it will continue)